What the Hell is that in my Cheez-It?

You may be asking yourself, What the Heck is that bit o’ plastic sticking out of the Cheez-It?


I found myself asking that very same question. It’s not often you find yourself looking at a bit of foreign matter in your food. Yes, we all know the government has certain allowable limits of bug parts and rat poo. In fact, they are to be expected. Have you ever picked a wild blackberry and eaten it right off the plant? Ever pick a LOT of them and put them in a bag? Look what crawls around after a few minutes and you would be surprised. You can soak fresh berries in water in the fridge for two days, those damn bugs will stay alive.

But man-made bits are few and far between. So, when my wife bought a box of Big Cheez-Its, and my daughter set down with them to play WarCraft and munch on the fine orange goodness, she was quite shocked to find that one particular cracker came with built-in dental floss.

My wife’s first instinct was to put it on FaceBook. Having been privy to certain other events where nastiness has found its way into food items, I said “no – lets give the company a chance to offer up some hush money”. After all, food companies paying big bucks to keep this sort of thing out of the public eye is normal.I would have settled for twenty bucks. I’m cheap and easy…

So, I emailed Kellogg, and explained I was disappointed that I found what looked like part of an ingredient bag or some other pull-tab baked into a cracker. Three days later I got a phone call. The nice man on the phone asked some pointed questions (which he cheerfully admitted were being recorded). Of course, the main points were – did anyone get hurt? did anyone get sick? No and No, respectively. He informed me they would send a collection kit to me, they wanted the chip and the box labeling. My daughter asked me “how much money are we getting?” I told her that despite my hints, hush money did not appear to be forthcoming.

Three weeks later I received my Collection Kit, dutifully packaged up the evidence, and shipped it off to the Kellogg Food Error Incinerator Company, and found that I did in fact receive a reward for my efforts.


Two coupons for free boxes of Cheez-Its. So much for hush money. I told my wife to go out and get those boxes ASAP. Maybe we’ll find a migrant worker’s finger in them or something.


Lightning and Clouds and Rainbows, oh my!

Over the last few days there has been some interesting things going on in the sky, to go along with the approaching Hurricane. A few days ago there was a nice afternoon storm, followed by a clearing of clouds and one of the most impressively clear rainbows I’ve seen in a long time.  It was a double rainbow, but that might not be apparent from the photos below.


Checking it from a few different angles, it was fun to try and put the end over different things.

The neighbor's pool has a pot of gold?


Sunday night, August 21st provided some massive amounts of lightning. Unfortunately most of it was above the clouds where it could not be seen. However, some of it was visible as it came through and struck the ground. It was all around me, so I missed a lot of it, and had to crop a few of these to really see anything, but overall it was quite impressive. I wished I could get in the car and drive out from under it, but I didnt know how long it would last or where it was heading. I could only imagine seeing it from the side.

Wispy washout. More impressive in real life, just washed out from overexposure.

The end of the street provided the best results, unfortunately it was a very narrow window.

Very cool - love it going through other clouds.

Focus is always an issue on lightning…. this is a heavy crop too – about 1/4 of the original photo.

Another double shot...

Someone just lost an Air Conditioner. Now the below image features no lightning, but was very intriguing. I kept seeing glimpses of something “weird looking” in the lightning, but once I was reviewing stuff I was thinking, “holy crap what was that?” It looks almost tornadic.

What's with the cloud on the left? Looks funnel shaped to me....

Hurricane Survival For Dummies

fix your lame computer and you can see this pictureAs Irene approaches the US coast, I thought it would be a good time to review some basic Hurricane Survival tips.

Hurricane Survival for Dummies

1. When you hear of an incoming hurricane, your presence is NOT immediately required at Wal-Mart, despite popular rumors. Stock up way before the storm hits, like when it’s still off the coast of Africa. Spare batteries keep a while, likewise for soup, bottled water, pop-tarts, and condoms. You should already have these things, at least four days before the storm hits you. At least get the condoms, which will give you an entertainment option when the lights go out.

2. The most commonly purchased item before a hurricane? Beer. Afterwards? Pop-Tarts. Both of which aren’t the best at room temperature, so invest in food that; A. Will keep a while, and B. Does not require cooling or heating. Milk fits into B, by the way.

3. Don’t run your generator or your gas grill indoors. There’s a big warning in the manual for a reason. The Ambulance people have enough to do without having to come get your corpse from inside your carbon-monoxide-filled house. If you decide to grill indoors, at least leave the EMS workers some steaks. Those guys work hard, and deserve something good after they’ve carried your corpulent mass outside on a stretcher.

4. Candles – also a big no-no. Yes, they are pretty and smell good, and I realize since every woman gives them for presents, you probably have fifty you can’t wait to burn up. Nothing, however, is worse than having to flee your burning house into 70 mile-per-hour winds. Also, the fire department won’t come during a hurricane. Big trucks + big winds = bad. Have the hose ready and hope your insurance is current. The good news is when the roof collapses; the pouring rain may put the fire out, and at the very least it should save the neighbors house from the results of your idiocy.

5. Stay out of flooded areas, including flooded streets. While nothing gives the rest of us a good laugh quite like seeing your BMW floating down the middle of the street, it’s dangerous. The tow companies make lots of money from people that “just have to go that way”… and wind up wading to the curb. The DOT puts out those bright ugly barricades for a reason.

6. Try and get along with housemates. Nothing brings a family together quite like being stuck in a hot, darkened house for hours upon end while the winds howl outside. Don’t start fights. Much like firemen, the cops and the EMS workers stay inside too.  So when you invite your cousins, your parents or your boy/girl friend to ride out the storm with you – it’s your party, you deal with the consequences.

7.  Leave the sightseeing for the news. After a big storm, the power might be out. Traffic lights run on electricity, oddly enough, which means there are bound to be traffic problems. Concentrate on cleaning up and eating your pop-tarts. When someone suggests “Let’s drive around and look at stuff”, slap them upside the head, remembering of course, #6 above.

8. After the storm, don’t attempt to remove downed power lines, or trees FROM power lines – UNLESS – you have a friend record it and promise to put the results on “YouTube”. The power people get paid well to fix the lines. Don’t deny them a small victory, and they have enough to do without having to pry your charred dead hands from the wires.

9. Looters. As much fun as it would be to shoot them, you don’t get to unless your life is in danger, so remember to put a knife in one of their hands. Just beat them with a tire iron until they drop your jewelry or DVD player. The base of the skull is a good target, and is particularly accessible if they are trying to run from you.

10. Lend your neighbor a hand. When the storm is over and your family is safe, check on a neighbor. If previous large hurricanes taught us one lesson – it’s that everyone can’t be helped at once. Help yourself and your neighbors to the extent you can, instead of sitting around waiting for someone to do it for you.

From the porch.

A former professor of mine once said that two things contributed to the decline of neighborhoods. TV and Air Conditioning. Before TV and air conditioning, people would gather on the porch on hot summer evenings. They would watch neighbors walk by,maybe engage them in conversation and, knowing their neighbors,might even recognize something off. Those odd screams in the distance, that strange man prowling around looking out of place.

Then along came the TV. Unlike the radio, which was portable enough to be carried around, TV was heavy and restricted to one room (if you were lucky). But it was still too hot to sit around, and face it, three fuzzy channels (if you lucky) weren’t good enough to glue you to the set in your 120 degree house.

So, people had something to do, but still sat on the porch because it was more enjoyable. Along came residential air conditioning. Now suddenly it WAS cooler and more comfortable inside, AND people had something to do. We went behind closed doors and shut out our neighbors, and thus began the decline of modern society.

So, when you can find something better to do on a hot summer evening than sit inside and stare at the TV, or even play on the internet, its rare and should be taken advantage of. Which is why I made my way to the front porch during a summer thunderstorm. First I had to duck under the giant garden spider’s web. He has taken advantage of the fact no one comes to our front door, and strung a web across the top of the door, to feast on the porchlight bugs. I leave him alone. The cool night air is relaxing, and a breeze blows tiny misty raindrops across my skin. Sitting on the bristly doormat I can hear trees rustling in the wind, dogs barking far off, and traffic coming. Every so often a car goes by, and through the headlights and rain I can see a wind tunnel effect as the rain slices over the top of the car and tumbles through the turbulent air behind it. Every now and then a brilliant flash illuminates the sky, and if I’m lucky, its right in front of me and I can capture the awesome power of nature. And that beats reality TV, any day of the week.


An early attempt. Every storm is different, and it takes a while to get dialed in. Add to it the fact I’m shooting through trees. It gets tough.



When you have the camera open enough to catch the little wispy lightning bolts, a very bright one will completely wash out the frame. That’s what happened this time. Glorious and bright, it left afterimages on my eyes like a flashbulb. Perfectly lined up, Right down the middle. Just too bright. And this is after playing with some settings afterwards. It was originally two trees on a white background.  Not too long after this I could hear a lot of fire trucks.

Towards the end I got this one. I was finally happy with settings that captured good ones, while missing some wispy barely-visible stuff. Unfortunately the trees and porch roof got in the way. As it was still raining, I couldn’t step out into the yard, but the lightning was moving more and ore straight overhead.


The last one of the evening. After this one, visible stuff died out, and pretty soon afterward, the lightning disappeared all together. If these two trees were gone it would have been spectacular… but I like trees. Unfortunately the pictures lose a lot in resizing and conversion for the blog. There’s a lot more detail in the full size ones. But, here they are. One great reason to get back on the porch on a hot summer evening.

Another Rainy Night

Sitting once again in a dark field waiting on thunderstorms to approach, I was struck (not by lightning of course) by the ridiculous nature of what I do. It was a real “Mythbusters What the Hell am I doing?” moment.

But the storms approached, and didnt get too out of hand. In fact, I sort of got skunked. I never could get the camera to do exactly what I wanted, the lightning was too occluded by other clouds and when I did get something it was either under or over exposed. To use the parlance of those who fight over balls, I was “off my game”. And the storm suddenly petered out. One minute, it was fun and showy, and suddenly, nothing.

However,  sitting in a field getting bitten by mosquitos and fire ants, and hoping that the lightning is close enough to be interesting without close enough to stop my heart or make me poo myself in fear, is always fun.  Herewith I present my less than stellar results.


We are the Borg. Resistance is Futile.

I resurrected my old Borg theme from iPhone 3G. For those of you not in the know, the Borg are a race of cybernetic bad guys from the Star Trek the Next Generation (and Voyager) series. They try to conquer any civilization with life forms or technology they can use for their own advancement. They are generally unpleasant. Think: Terminator with more external equipment. Just Google Borg.

Any way, I made a Lot of icons and sound effects for my phone and decided to use them again. First I got a new “lock screen” image and settings from another site and reworked everything. I was able to use some pre made stuff and redo it to make this:


I lost most of my other customizations other than my icons. It seems some of the stuff no longer works anyway with operating system updates.


Any way, I’m having fun with it. It’s too hot to do anything outside right now anyway. Come on fall!


Yard Sale time, Yee haw cuz!

I hate yard sales. I would almost rather just chuck it all in the dumpster and be done with it. First you have to waste a perfectly good Saturday getting up early. Then you set up crap at the end of the driveway. If you have enough stuff, and you look dejected enough, it can seem to passers-by that you just got evicted.
Then there’s the haggling. I’m sorry this is 2011 in the United States, not 1920 Saudi Arabia. When I say “that’s ten dollars”, don’t insult me by saying, “will you take eight?”.

No. Its ten dollars. Actually now it’s twelve, I had to add two bucks for dealing with you. So pay up, move on, or get the Hell out of my yard. It’s an eighty dollar car seat, you’re getting it for ten bucks. Quit bitching.

Then there’s the, um, types of folks that attend yard sales. Sure there are some relatively average people, but then there are those people… The atavistic throwbacks that you know just learned how to use that opposable thumb (isn’t it cool?) and who might just fling poo at you if they don’t get that old VCR for a dollar instead of five. They grunt and scratch their bellies and spit chew on the ground, and hand you a few grubby bills, before you watch them leave, oil dripping. The last thing you see are those Yosemite Sam mud flaps.

I guess it’s not a total waste. If I wasn’t enjoying this humid morning, out here feeding the mosquitos and watching people drive by giving me derisive looks, I would be inside asleep.